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Company Directors (Statutory Obligations)

Volume 931: debated on Monday 9 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade how many reminder letters have been sent to directors of a company in default of their statutory obligation during the last 12 months; and how many of those involved were deceased theatrical managers.

In the 12 months to 31st March, the Registrar of Companies for England and Wales sent some 45,000 reminder letters to persons notified to him as directors. It is not possible to say how many of these letters may have been addressed to theatrical managers, deceased or otherwise. My Department's objective is to secure increased compliance with the law by the living rather than to engage in spiritual communication with the dead.

I thank the Under-Secretary for that assurance. Does he recognise that this Question follows an earlier Question which I put down to his Department asking why it was making frenzied attempts to contact the late Mr. Arthur Bouchier, the ghost of the Garrick Theatre? Would it not be helpful if the Department saved the taxpayers' money by ending the reminder system, or at least if its officials read history—preferably theatrical history?

The hon. Gentleman is probably making his last positive appearance on this matter. Mr. Bouchier was a famous actor-manager, I gather, at the Garrick Theatre. It may be noteworthy that two of his longest-running productions were "The Golden Silence" and "The Arm of the Law". We have not been in a state of frenzy about this matter. It would be helpful if directors of companies—I am talking of the living rather than of spirits—advised the Companies Registry when one of their number departed this soil.

More generally and seriously, is the hon. Gentleman aware that the irresponsibility of a relatively small number of companies in not complying with their obligations under the Companies Act is not only a serious clog on commercial practice but very damaging to the overburdened majority, particularly of small firms, which try to wrestle with the matter? Is he aware that he would have the support of the House if he clamped down rigorously on the minority?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. We stepped up the number of prosecutions quite dramatically in 1976, more or less doubling the figure for the previous year. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's observations will be taken to heart where it really matters.